Matt Garza Is The Weak Link In Brewers Rotation

One of the Brewers’ biggest weaknesses last season — perhaps the largest reason why they foundered to a 68-94 record, their worst since 2004 — was a hideous rotation. Milwaukee’s starters posted an ERA and DRA of 4.79, the third- and fifth-worst marks in baseball, respectively. Unsurprisingly, the team has imported a great amount of potential starting pitching during their rebuild. Those pitchers have combined with a strong core of homegrown youngsters to renew hope for what could be in a few years.

And yet, the Brewers insist on running out a has-been in 2016. As the Journal-Sentinel‘s Tom Haudricourt reported on Tuesday:

(This set of five lines up with PECOTA’s projections.)

Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann have clear spots in the rotation, as talented pitchers with recent success and different degrees of upside. Despite his 2015 misery, Wily Peralta deserves one as well — if he can stay healthy, he could regain the luster he once possessed. And although Chase Anderson is probably near or at his ceiling, he can serve as the stabilizing veteran presence. Few would dispute the priority given to these four men.

Matt Garza, by contrast, has nothing working in his favor. He pitched awfully in 2015 — costing the team 0.6 WARP over his 148.2 starts — to such an extent that it’s hard to imagine a 2016 rebound. When a 32-year-old hurler’s velocity drops to a career low, as Garza’s did; when he combines his highest walk rate in six seasons with his lowest strikeout rate ever; when every other batter he faces (give or take) deposits the ball in the outfield seats, you don’t want him to take the mound every fifth day.

But maybe Garza has some hope. FOX6’s Brandon Cruz reports that he’ll bring a “new approach” into the season — perhaps he’ll even be in the Best Shape Of His Life! The optimism of Spring Training, addictive though it may be, shouldn’t actually impact roster decisions. PECOTA predicts Garza will post a 4.41 ERA across 151.0 innings, netting the Brewers just 0.7 WARP. The projections for Nelson (4.11), Jungmann (4.26), and Anderson (4.28) all beat that ERA; so does PECOTA’s prognostication for Zach Davies (4.10), Jorge Lopez (4.30), and Ariel Pena (4.33). While Peralta has a 4.43 projected ERA, his aforementioned ability beats out Garza. All in all, the rotation’s oldest member has no reason to remain.

Plus, projections don’t always come true for younger players. Maybe Davies rides his ground balls to a prosperous rookie campaign. Maybe Lopez gets his free passes under control sooner than expected. Maybe Pena proves that his fruitful September was no fluke. Maybe Adrian Houser or Josh Hader or another of the developing arms breaks out and shoots through the system. These players have the potential that Garza lacks, meaning they should take priority over him.

The one main argument in favor of starting Garza has to do with the t-word. As a rebuilding club, the Brewers’ highest priority is not to win games, so fielding an inferior player might help their cause. Not only does this position ignore the less-than-altruistic ulterior motives for tanking, it disregards this team’s rebuilding strategy. Players such as Aaron Hill and Chris Carter will help the team in 2016; they probably won’t accomplish as much thereafter. Guys such as Jonathan Villar and Chase Anderson could improve the club for a couple years. While Milwaukee won’t compile many victories this season, it also won’t pull a Houston. Rebuilding years can provide a great opportunity for young players to showcase their stuff, which the Brewers should take advantage of.

The Brewers have to employ Garza in some capacity for the next two years. If they attempt to remove him from the rotation, he may push back, as he did last season. But the needs of the team should ultimately win out. A move to the bullpen for this washed-up starter would open up a slot for a promising new one. David Stearns and Craig Counsell have done so many things right in their first years on the job; hopefully, they’ll nail this decision as well.

Related Articles

3 comments on “Matt Garza Is The Weak Link In Brewers Rotation”


What about a potential trade? I think thats a good reason to keep him in the roatation. Last season was pretty terrible for Garza on many fronts but at 32 I dont think its out of the question for him to rebound towards his career averages. If he does and the Brewers maybe eat a little of that contract I think its possible he nets a decent prospect or two.

Ryan Romano

That’s certainly a possibility, and at this point it might be the best option for all parties. However, for that to happen, Garza would probably have to show some potential for a rebound; the Brewers might deal him in June or July, but he’d need to build up some solid starts by then to prove that he has something left in the tank. I’d rather give those starts to a younger pitcher to see how they fare.

Leave a comment